For more than a decade does more harm to women than good.
Mothers who receive episiotomies – an incision at the vaginal opening to create more room as a baby’s head appears – are more likely to suffer severe complications than if they had been allowed to tear naturally.
That’s why national guidelines since 2006 have called for limiting the procedure to emergencies, such as when a baby’s shoulders get stuck. Although there is no national consensus on how frequently the procedure should be used, a leading hospital safety group recommends that the cuts should occur in no more than 5% of vaginal deliveries.
But a USA today analysis of hospital billing data finds dozens of hospitals with episiotomy rates of 20% or higher, some of them nearly double that.
At the 553 hospitals analyzed, nearly 240,000 women were cut over four years. Those with the highest rates of episiotomies included major medical centers in big cities, mid-sized hospitals in metropolitan suburbs and small facilities in rural communities. Washington State had the lowest statewide rate: Just 3.8% during the time period studied. In New York and Nevada, statewide rates were more than 11%.